From Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine (SkyLight Paths) Photo: Courage Campaign.org
Sister Elena Kelly is tall and broad shouldered. She takes a seat and drapes her dark floral-print skirt over black suede boots. Elena is not your ordinary woman religious. She is starting a convent for transgender women. She made her own transition several years earlier, after serving in the U.S. Navy, raising six kids, becoming ordained in two religious traditions, and founding a nondenominational church in Colorado.
These facts spill from her with ease, with laughter, but her life has been anything but facile. She points to the Divine Mother as the one who sustained her. “My first experience of the Divine Mother,” Elena recalls, “was a long time ago. I wasn’t even five years old yet. My mother was an alcoholic, and my dad was a farmer and gone all day. One day my mom and dad get in this terrible fight, and I’m horrified. I remember running back to my room, getting down on my knees, and saying, ‘Dear Heavenly Mother, the Heavenly Father is not paying attention when I pray. Would you please do something about my parents and make them stop fighting?’ No sooner had I said those words when the house went silent. And I thought to myself, ‘So there is a Divine Mother. I thought so. If there’s a Father, there has to be a Mother.’”
When Elena was still very young, she dreamed, “An angel from heaven—I like to call her Divine Mother—came down from heaven with this big white robe and feathery wings, and she wrapped her arms around me and took me away from that horrible life I had.”
As a teenager, Elena attempted suicide twice. “Mother Mary, the Divine Mother, saved me from killing myself,” Elena asserts. “She’s been there every step of the way. Things happen to me every day that She has ordered and put into place.”
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